Overcoming Common CMS Migration Challenges (CMS Migration Checklist)

People on an obstacle course - common challenges concept

Making changes to an existing piece of your technology stack can sometimes be a daunting task. Companies are searching for ways to improve the digital experiences they provide for their customers and turning to their content management systems to help them. 

Unfortunately, many organizations may find that their current legacy infrastructure is hindering progress. Consequently, migrating to a new platform may turn out to be the only suitable option to keep up with these changing demands. But undertaking a CMS migration can sometimes be a painful task, wrought with several challenges. We spoke with experts to uncover some of the obstacles that you might face during a CMS migration and how to overcome them. 

CMS Migration Obstacles

A CMS migration involves moving a website and other digital assets from one CMS to another. Many legacy platforms lack the required user-friendliness or are unable to integrate with other tools in the modern tech stack. Thus, businesses need to migrate their content to keep up with user demand. Here are some of the obstacles that can make this migration process difficult.

Data Conversion Process

According to Karl Hughes, CEO at Chicago, IL-based, Draft Dev, the conversion process presents one of the most significant challenges during a CMS migration.

“Your existing data may need to be transformed to ensure compatibility. Maybe your database was stored in an outdated format? Maybe the old URL structure for your site is no longer valid? You’ll also need a whole new sitemap,” said Hughes. 

Lack of Content Strategy

If you don’t have a proper content strategy in place, you won’t know which content should be migrated first and which content shouldn’t be migrated. This creates additional challenges during the migration process, which aren’t worth the extra headache.

As Sergey Golubenko, Head of the SharePoint Department at McKinney, TX-based ScienceSoft points out, lack of a strategy can make it difficult to distinguish between critical and irrelevant content before migration. These files are usually mixed up, missing or inconsistent metadata in the source CMS’s content, migration of linked documents and files in proprietary formats.”

Content Storage Structure

From a technical perspective, how content is structured and stored in your existing CMS can make your migration painless or painful. CMSs have different opinions on how content gets stored in the database, making the migration process difficult. 

The challenge with this Knut Malvaer, Developer Advocate at San Francisco, CA-based Sanity explains, is that “many CMS let you mix your content with presentation concerns. Not only does that make redesigns hard, but it can also be hard to automate and script migrations,” said Malvaer. As a result, developers may need to scrape HTML instead of transferring content from databases. 

CMS Migration Checklist

Even though there are a few obstacles that can get in the way of your CMS migration, it’s possible to avoid or at least mitigate them by following this checklist. 


  • Perform a content audit: You need to be aware of the content assets you have so that you know what needs to be present and what doesn’t post-migration. “Organizing all existing content is a part of the initial stage, as categorizing can aid tremendously during the restoration. You know what pages and content are a priority and what should be restored first, as opposed to what can come later,” said Hughes. 
  • Define your migration plan: Before you start the migration process, you need to define your migration plan properly. You will need to “define costs, timeframes, and tools required for CMS migration. For example, if you migrate bulky documents and media assets, you should opt for migration automation tools,” added Golubenko. 
  • Assess security: Security needs to be a crucial consideration before the migration process. Coordinate with stakeholders, the migration project manager, and anyone else involved to ensure that the migration process complies with data regulations such as GDPR or CCPA. 

During Migration

  • Review data architecture and trial migration: Incompatible data architecture can be one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome. Map the data from your current to future CMS to ensure that formatting is aligned. By trialing the migration process with a large data sample, you can identify duplicate data and missing content gaps that need to be fixed before you complete the migration process. 
  • Create backups and contingencies: Sometimes things can go wrong during the migration. Store and backup your data in case you run into trouble during the process. 


  • Test and monitor: After you’ve completed the migration, you need to test to ensure that everything was transferred correctly. In some cases, you might need to reformat content, fix broken URL links and restructure elements of your website. Plus, pages might start loading slowly a few hours or days after the migration, so continuously monitor to ensure the quality remains. 
  • Train personnel: Finally, make sure that your current personnel are trained in how to use your new CMS. If you don’t educate them on using the new platform, then your potentially expensive migration won’t provide the required return on investment. 

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